3 Hot Vintage Valuables That Might Be Hiding in Your Home

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vintage items in garage
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With 30 years of reselling under my belt, I’m the go-to guy when friends need a quick appraisal. And over the years I’ve noticed a recurring phenomenon: The vintage items most people consider valuable usually aren’t, and the things they want to toss are often hot collectibles.

Here’s why: Many of us get our idea of what’s valuable from our parents. But markets change, and new collectors have different tastes.

What disregarded treasures are hiding in your home right now? The answers might surprise you. In this series, we’ll explore hot collectibles you might already own.

Vintage model horses by Breyer

Breyer horses collectibles toys
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Based in Chicago, Breyer Molding Company released its first model horse in 1950. That first horse was designed as an accessory for a clock sold by the F.W. Woolworth Company. Customers seemed to love the horse more than the clock, and Breyer’s line of model horses was born.

In the intervening 74 years, Breyer horses have become a much-loved collectible, hovering somewhere between cool kids’ toy and home decor item for grown-ups.

Breyer horses are typically marked by a “button,” a circular impressed stamp on an inside leg that reads Breyer Molding Co. or Breyer Reeves. The mark is often easier to feel than to see (I rely on my smartphone to photograph and then zoom in the tiny marks).

Luckily for collectors, there’s a comprehensive online resource for Breyer horses. Check out Identify Your Breyer to research molds, model numbers, and history.

Serious collectors will pony up (sorry) for rare Breyer pieces. On eBay, this vintage gold-dappled Breyer horse sold for $2,200, and this Wedgewood blue mare sold for $1,750.

Van Teal acrylic lamps and sculptures

stacked acrylic lamp
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Born in Cuba, Hivo Van Teal fled that country after the Communist Revolution in 1959. Establishing himself in Coral Gables, Florida, Van Teal became a general contractor and later began dabbling in the arts.

Together with his wife, Estela, Van Teal opened a small sculpture and lighting studio in Miami Beach in 1974. His clear acrylic lamps and sculptures caught the attention of buyers at Saks Fifth Avenue and I. Magnin. Large-scale custom installations followed, and Van Teal gradually became a leading designer for restaurants, hotels, and public spaces. (think Chihuly, but in acrylic instead of glass).

Vintage Van Teal pieces are prized by collectors around the world. On Etsy, this striking pair of Van Teal table lamps is listed for $1,600, and this multicolored perfume bottle recently sold for $300 on eBay.

Pro tip: Not sure if your acrylic treasure is a real Van Teal? Most pieces were hand-signed with a small etched mark on or under the base.

Marimekko fabric

marimekko fabric
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If there’s one company that captured the 1960s and ’70s design aesthetic, it’s Marimekko. Since 1954, vibrant printed fabrics by this Finnish design house have been used in high-end fashion, home goods, and artwork.

Rather than employing a single team of designers, founder Armi Ratia worked with independent designers to create innovative new prints. The result is a tour de force collection of textile art from some of the world’s most visionary artists.

Still going strong today, Marimekko partners with retail companies such as UNIQLO, IKEA, and West Elm to release limited-run products inspired by the company’s aesthetic.

Resale prices loom large for everything Marimekko. On eBay, this 57-by-52-inch panel recently sold for $250, and this set of four drapes made from Marimekko fabric sold for $150. On Etsy, this bold 46-inch-square panel is listed for the sew-amazing price of $545.

Humble (but hot) materials

Items at flea market
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Plastic, acrylic and factory-made bolt fabric aren’t materials usually associated with collectability. But resale values don’t lie; they reflect demand from today’s buyers and the shrinking supply of authentic pieces.

Instead of focusing on what an object is made of, focus on how well it’s made, its design quality, and what sort of feeling it inspires. Remember, there are treasures all around you — and some of them are even made of plastic.

Interested in taking a closer look at surprising collectibles? Check out my series on hidden treasures in the secondhand market.

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